The debut of the Fine Furnishings & Fine Craft Show in Baltimore is scheduled for May 2-3 at the France-Merrick Performing Arts Center complex. The show is produced by Karla Little of KL Communications, who is also director of two other Fine Furnishings & Fine Craft Shows in Providence, R.I., and Milwaukee.
The shows feature handcrafted furniture and decorative accessories designed and handmade by both emerging and established artists from throughout North America. Little created this third show in response to the request of a core group of exhibitors who wanted an invitational show in the Mid-Atlantic region.
“These exhibitors, primarily furniture makers, want a show they can rely on each year to show and sell their work,” says Little.
Because many of the large craft shows in the Baltimore area are juried, Little says, they are not reliable to craftspeople who want to establish themselves with clients because they can’t depend on being juried in every year.
“Furniture makers have to have consistency because selling furniture is about building long-term relationships with clients. These people need to establish themselves. They need to be able to set up their schedule to say they’re going to market their work in particular shows throughout the course of the year,” says Little, who added that once exhibitors are invited through her initial application, it’s their choice whether or not they want to return to any of her shows.
Little searched the area during the last three years looking for an appropriate venue. She settled on the performing arts center because she says it will provide a spectacular backdrop for exhibitors’ furniture and accessories.
In light of the economy, Little says she is confident fine furnishings are selling to a high-end market, even though buyers are being more discreet about their purchases.
“Most marketing people will tell you that when there’s a down economy that that’s the time to get your name out there. I feel we have an opportunity to establish ourselves and build the show — it’s sort of like starting from ground zero.”
Approximately 50 exhibiting artists are expected for the first show. Little estimates that because the show is new, about 80 percent of the exhibitors will be furniture makers, comprised of a combination of new exhibitors and long-term regulars from her other shows.
Furniture maker Arnold d’Epagnier, of Colesville, Md., is one of the local exhibitors. “This salon-style setting will allow design conversations to be unhurried and goal-oriented between the designers and the public,” he says. “With Baltimore being central to the Mid-Atlantic region, it is a perfect place for those from Washington D.C.; Annapolis, Md.; Philadelphia; and many points in between to come meet artists, see their work, and talk to them about a piece for their home or client. And early May near the Inner Harbor is delightful.”
Some out-of-state exhibitors include David Stine of Dow, Ill.; Nathan Hunter of Bloomington, Ind.; and Michael Doerr of Doerr Woodworking in Sturgeon Bay, Wis.
“I have had years of success at the Milwaukee and Providence Fine Furnishings Shows and I believe that this new show in Baltimore will provide the opportunity to meet new clients and build a relationship with them and the community,” says Doerr.
Little says a handful of exhibitors are expected from all of the New England states. Also, several members of the Maine Wood Products Association will exhibit together in a row of booths, including Sebago Furniture, Fiddlehead Wood Arts, Forrest’s Fine Furniture, Maine Cedar Hot Tubs and W.A. Mitchell Fine Furniture.
“Members of the Maine Wood Products Association have had great success at the Providence Fine Furnishings & Fine Craft Show and see the Baltimore show as a terrific opportunity to explore a new market for their fine furniture and crafts,” says Bob MacGregor, the trade group’s executive director.
Later this year, the fourth annual Milwaukee Fine Furnishings & Fine Craft Show will return Sept. 26-27 to the Midwest Airlines Center; and the 14th annual Providence Fine Furnishings & Fine Craft Show will be held Oct. 23-25 at the Rhode Island Convention Center.
The shows are open to both wholesale and retail buyers, and all exhibitor work is for sale, order or commission.
Contact: KL Communications, 80 Main Road, Suite 203, Tiverton, RI 02878. Tel: 401-816-0963. www.finefurnishingsshows.com
This article originally appeared in the April 2009 issue.